Should Eureka Seven AO Be Seen Before Its Predecessor?
Within big franchises there has always been the question of whether it is worth approaching stories from a different sequence than the creators intended. Whether you watch the original Star Wars trilogy (1977) first, the remakes second, or simply ignore the new ones entirely is a matter of personal preference and passionate nerd debate. In the anime world, watching shows like The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (2006) in a different order can help enhance the experience. More lengthy titles like Bleach (2004), Naruto (2002) or Inuyasha (2000) have webpages dedicated to the filler arcs and urge viewers to skip these. In a best case scenario altering how you consume entertainment can help you pick up plot points you didn’t notice the first time, experience the story afresh or renew a flame for an old favorite.
Sunrise is one of Japan’s biggest animation studios and is most famous for the Mobile Suit Gundam franchise which started in 1979 and still hasn’t stopped. A couple of members from Sunrise founded studio BONES in 1998. BONES first step into anime was a collaboration with Sunrise to produce the critically acclaimed Cowboy Bebop (1998). From there, they have created a stream of popular and successful series which are often named as ‘gateway titles’ for the anime medium: Wolf’s Rain (2003), Scrapped Princess (2003), Full Metal Alchemist (2003) and Ouran High School Host Club (2006) are just a number of these.
Eureka Seven (2005)
After the worldwide success of Fullmetal Alchemist in 2003 Newtype USA marketed BONES’ next project, Eureka Seven (2005) as “their next big hit”. With little information to go off besides a fast paced trailer and catchy theme song, viewers could only assume it would fit the action-packed, plot-driven formula they know and love from animation studio. Die hard action fans were immediately proven wrong when the first episode Blue Monday, aired. On contraire to the fast paced storytelling of Fullmetal Alchemist, Eureka Seven took a more serious route. Eureka Seven’s focus is its character interaction and world building. Renton Thurston is a 14-year-old boy with big dreams and a contrasting dull reality. His life begins to change when a giant robot piloted by a mysterious girl crashes into his house.
Much like the fantasy novel Eragon by Christopher Paolini Eureka Seven’s story is explored from the eyes of the protagonist, Renton. The viewer only learns about the villains motives once he runs into them. It doesn’t stop the show from showing scenes with mysterious sinister people, but their ramblings make little sense until later. The series can seem slow for this reason. Renton often narrates scenes and gives them his own context, as though he is speaking from a point in the future as homage to his long-lost sister. We learn about his thoughts, fears, hopes and doubts. This style tells the viewer straight away the series is about Renton’s emotional journey, and not an excuse for explosions.
This storytelling method aside Eureka Seven shines in every other area. It is obvious, again, from episode one that a lot of thought went into the Eureka Seven universe. It exceeds in its detail of its futuristic setting. Agriculture, religion, transportation, economy, social structure, flora, history and fauna are explored. Eureka Seven also has a variety of likable, interesting characters which we learn a lot about on Renton’s journey. The animation is brilliant, from its color palate, detailed background art, impressive fight scenes to the stylish character designs by Kenichi Yoshida (animator of BONES, Sunrise and various Studio Ghibli titles). The soundtrack by composer Naoki Sato is emotive and rich, and the songs have a distinct, modern vibe. At 50 episodes long it isn’t void of filler, there is an episode about the characters playing soccer, but even that has a cheesy justification. It shares the pacing and mellow, moving tone of Studio Ghibli films like Whisper of the Heart (1995) and The Secret World of Arriety (2010).
The series is divided into story arcs: episodes one to ten could be considered Act 1 of a film. It introduces all the major characters, describes to the viewer the type of world they live in, some of their personal struggles and hints of the overarching story. The Gekkostate crew run errands, try to earn some cash and have fun, like a laid back version of the Cowboy Bebop team. It is both intriguing, funny and touching. Episodes eleven to nineteen start to shake the foundations. The villains cause some trouble and the darker side of the Gekkostate members and Eureka Seven universe is shown. This includes what is commonly known as the “cave arc”, which made me feel like I was watching parts of Laputa: Castle in the Sky (1986). Episodes twenty to twenty-eight separate the two main characters. This allows the two of them to function independently of the other and define their own values in respect to the ever-darkening world around them. It builds heavily upon the setting and the relationships the characters have with each other. The remaining episodes alternate between all running storylines and relationships, bring the underlying plot out in the open and resolve it.
Eureka Seven may not have had as much of a noticeable impact on the anime community, but was greeted with positive critique. Eureka Seven won multiple awards in Japan including Best Screenplay, Character Designs and “Animation series of 2006”. In the West, the Eureka Seven DVD sales became harder to find as printing numbers decreased with each release. This shows the smaller audience Eureka Seven appeals to. It did however air on Adult Swim in 2006 and was rebroadcast on Toonami in 2012, so it became somewhat mainstream. The last episode ended with a cliffhanger of an epilogue. While all the story points were resolved it left space for a sequel, which is where its baby, Eureka Seven AO comes into the picture seven years later.
Eureka Seven AO: Astral Ocean (2012)
In 2012 the 26 episode Eureka Seven AO graced Japan’s screens to fans delight. Breaking away from the main cast of the original and cutting its running time, AO depicts the life of thirteen year old Ao Fukai in search for his mother (Eureka). Despite sharing the beautiful aesthetics and setting of Eureka Seven it was met with a huge backlash, like the internet rage when the Endless Eight arc of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya Season 2 came out. It changed Eureka Seven to an action-packed shounen formula with the characters barely holding up its roof. It has also been commonly criticized as contradicting a lot of the ideologies of the original 2005 series, and ending with no strong conclusion. Many fans have treated it the same as the stand-alone movie Good Night, Sleep Tight, Young Lovers. In order to deal with the ‘trauma’ the fans pretend it doesn’t exist.
If you take comparisons for Eureka Seven out of the picture, Eureka Seven AO has a lot of positive qualities. It has a fantastic, original setting. Even though a lot of the terminology here is only introduced, its visuals are gorgeous, bringing forth some of the best in the genre, outside Full Metal Panic: The Second Raid (2005). The colors are soft and backgrounds nicely detailed. The character designs are by Hiroyuki Oda (Oreimo) this time around, but he manages to stay faithful to the style of the original and fool everyone. All the characters look different in their face structure, body posture, instead of just their hair! Eureka Seven AO looks good even when a fight scene is not occurring, although these are the obvious highlight. The soundtrack is the first exploration of music by animator Koji Nakamura but he does well. It very much mimics the style of brilliant orchestrated soundtrack by Naoki Sato and is memorable, emotive and beautiful. The ending songs fare better than the openings, which are forgettable. The English dub fares very well in terms of casting and delivery. Johnny Yong Bosch and Stephanie Sheh return for their roles as Renton and Eureka. Johnny Bosch even tries to make his voice sound gruff, like Holland’s seiyu in the Japanese. The only disappointment is Todd Haberkorn as Truth. Even though the acting is passable his deeper, rough tone doesn’t fit the slick and sly style Truth has going for him.
The content of AO is where it becomes a hit or miss product. Ao is a far braver, less whiney version of Renton although he is not explored in a great deal of detail. Granted, he is only thirteen so there’s not much for us to go off. He is a likable enough lead and does better than Kira from Gundam Seed. Apart from Ao, Fleur, Ivica an Ao’s parents themselves are given the most attention and they are the most likable. Not to say the other characters don’t get anything, but Truth and Elena’s stories are not explained in the most logical, sensible way. Information is not revealed in chronological order and is merged with dream sequences. It is left largely up to speculation about what the true motives of these characters were. The most misleading character was Naru. She is Ao’s closest friend and yet she does not seem to share that role in the series. Her role seems to be a plot device to explain particular elements of the Ao universe. Perhaps the writers tried to do too much within 26 episodes however the characters stories could have made more sense if they were dedicated an episode each perhaps, or executing Naru and Elena’s stories in chronological order.
Eureka Seven AO has its own fair share of problems as did the original, but slow pacing is not one of them. In fact, it could arguably be the opposite. The first nine episodes or so follow a typical Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995) plotline, just a lot prettier with less angsty teens. Our Angels this time around are Secrets, or G-Monsters (why did they have to make it have two names?) and Ao along with Genertion Bleu aim to eradicate them from the island of Okinawa. This is simple fun, quite like the start of Eureka Seven. The introduction of the villain Truth boosts the entertainment factor. He is hell-bent on causing chaos, for reasons we don’t yet know. From episode thirteen onwards AO makes it clear that it’s more about the story than the characters. It becomes less an Evangelion clone and sets itself apart with one of the most confusing uses of time travel I’ve ever seen, paralleled only by Season 6 of Doctor Who. This only gets worse when the ending comes along. It ends open-ended but lays enough clues that you can guess what the creators were trying to do if you watch it enough times.
All in all AO shares a lot more in common with other pre-existing mecha franchises than it’s preceder. It has a bunch of political, battle-tactic, ramblings about justice from Gundam or Code Geass, G-Monster of the week theme from Evangelion, and a bunch of Stephen Moffat inspired plot twists. It’s high production values make it better than your average mecha show. It is not perfect by any means but it is entertaining from start to finish. There is no filler in this show, but a lot of story points they could have explained better. Eureka Seven AO isn’t worth taking seriously and introduces many of the ideas that are further explored in the 2005 series. Even though it falls short in a few areas, it is a decent introduction to the franchise and some of its themes. Recommended for mecha fans whom would like to see something with a different vibe.
What Are The Fans To Do?
If both series were created by BONES, what went wrong? We can only guess the reasons why the formula between the series was changed, but a few clues are available if you look at the staff behind the screen. The director couldn’t have been the reasons behind the change. Tomoki Kyoda directed both series, and although most of his experiences comes from storyboard work a returning member from Eureka Seven should have made Ao have a similar tone. It certainly wasn’t the aesthetics side of AO which was its downfall, as BONES managed to replicate the style of the original even though the staff were different. This was a clever move. It’s a shame that the integral planning and writing stages of the series is where AO fails.
The flaws of AO were in the writing. Dai Sato (Wolfs Rain, Eden of the East) did the series composition for Eureka Seven and wrote 12 of the episodes, but sadly he did not return for AO. This could easily explain AO’s different style and story issues. The person who wrote the most episodes (10) for AO was Shou Aikawa (Full Metal Alchemist, The Twelve Kingdoms). While his resume is impressive as it stands, it looks like a serious mecha stories are not part of his repertoire. It is interesting to note that the first 3 episodes of AO, which among haters are considered the most Eureka Seven-esque episodes were written by Kakuto Takeyoshi, who also did the series composition for AO. He may not have been part of the original crew but it would have been amazing to see what Takeyoshi could have done with the rest of AO if he was given the green light. It is a nice commemoration to his talent though. Perhaps he will get some other projects to work on soon.
How should fans approach this version of the story considering how different they are? Most of the negative response for AO is in comparing it to the original series, and how it behaves as a sequel. However, because the nature of the series (revealed in episode 13), there’s no reason AO couldn’t be seen first, with Eureka Seven second. The average mecha fan will probably find Eureka Seven the more enjoyable watching second, as it would answer a lot of unexplained concepts in AO. It would also show them more of the characters with small cameos in the original (Eureka and Renton). The only thing one would need to be ready for is the transition from plot-driven to character-driven series. Regardless which series you watch first the terminology used in AO is confusing, and partly explained later so this is something that could be pushed to the side.
Even though fans looked forward to seeing Eureka and Renton from where they left off, Eureka Seven AO has done a few positive things for the franchise. In Japan’s Weekly CD & DVD ratings in March 2012 the first DVD of Eureka Seven ranked number 15, seven years after its original release. This displays that Eureka Seven AO was able to suck in a new set of viewers who had not seen the original. Instead of making the newcomers angry, responses were positive and showed interest in the original. This means when they move from AO to Eureka Seven, they will get a more well-rounded view of the setting, while enjoying a more detailed cast of characters. If Eureka Seven Ao was created for bringing in a new audience this is what it manages to do. Regardless of which one you watch first, he Pslams of the Planets franchise is a great one to look into for its rich background, characters and variety of stories.
What do you think? Leave a comment.
When I watched the original Eureka Seven, I had a hard time getting into the show. It came to a point where I put it on hiatus for some time. Usually when I do this I very rarely return to finish watching it but this was different. I ended up watching it once more and loving it! The reason was that the characters and character development was great. Even for characters which I did not care about. Now, this is where AO is lacking, character development. The characters are ALL typical mech anime characters.
Disagreeing here. The Characters definitively provided a sense of enjoyment to the anime. AO the main protagonist was really great and had a great personalty.
Well on its own, the sequel is at the very least decent and at its best superb for what it’s trying to do. It is still entertaining, engaging, and worth watching, and while you will not get as attached to its characters as you did with the parent series, at the very least Ao himself is someone worth rooting for.
I have always recommended friends to watch Eureka 7 before AO as it does mention very important things that people who watched Eureka 7 would know. AO takes place in a different universe than the original which is explained in the original and in some of AO…
I think it would be a nice experiment to see the difference would be. I’ve heard if you watch AO first there isn’t as much connection between Eureka and Renton, but that’s about it.
Unfortunately, AO doesn’t lift up to be a continuation for the first series. Yes, in the end, explanations covers up most gaps between the series, which appears to be so matching and makes sense in some ways, but the stupidity and illogical plot itself diverts its core purpose from the original.
Is it a waste of time? Kinda. It would be better to name this series as spinoff alternate storyline instead of a direct sequel.
Eureka Seven AO is a sequel to close everything. The ends the scene on E7 POP and AO together. You could say that it is the curtain call for both series. If a fan is looking for this, then you have it on a plate. If not, then watch an anime with a proven formula for a plot line.
The biggest issue is the overall delivery of the story. The flow of the storyline is so choppy, almost as if it was butchered in post production.
Good writeup. Unfortunately, the great flaw that AO suffers from is time constraints. Unlike the original anime, Astral Ocean has a twenty four episode run. And this means that plot and character development takes a dive compared to the scope of the first series.
Considering the length they could have focused on a few characters and flesh them out properly rather than trying to flesh them all out and half adding some of. Them
*half assing. Autocorrect
I was basically facepalming all over the place at how bad AO is, and how I was foolish to be excited for this. The question should not be if we one should watch E7 before AO, but if AO is worth watching after E7!
Great stuff! Thank you. Eureka Seven is one of my most favourite mecha shows of all time.
Ok if anyone is looking for an anime like Eureka 7, then AO is not that bad. But the anime does not have half the amazing components that Eureka 7 had.
In my opinion, the worst sequel I have ever seen done to a stunning original series (Eureka Seven).
Eureka Seven remains my absolute favorite anime series to this day so I was positively exploding with excitement with the announcement of AO, and the high octane first episode gave me high hopes despite the very confusing setting. However this excitement steadily turned into greater and greater disappointment as it became clear AO was largely a monster of the week format show with very little relation to the original.
With this write-up I did consider AO on its own merits and it isn’t the train wreck I initially held it to be. Visuals are amazing and music undeniably strong. I still feel nearly nothing happened for much of the series as it just dragged us along with red herrings and little payoff to fans of the original. (Type TheEND anyone?) I absolutely hated how the sequel had to ruin Eureka and Renton’s happy ending as well as reversing the entire message of coexistence from the original. Absolutely no news of Holland and the others either, and the glimpse of Renton and Eureka’s post apocalyptic world were not encouraging. While I still strongly dislike Ao for souring my favorite series I have hope its popularity results in an improved continuation one day.
As a loyal fan of Eureka Seven, I must say that it is disappointing to hear that the continuation in Eureka AO takes a different direction, because I really enjoyed the character development. That being said, I have not seen Eureka AO. I’ll definitely have to check it out and form my own opinion on it. Just because I enjoyed the original Eureka Seven with its depth doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy a plain old mecha anime. Would anyone say it’s worth checking out Eureka Seven Ao?
While the sequel is not all that, the action scenes are some of Bones’ finest visual work!
Eureka Seven and Eureka Seven AO are great shows. They are one of the greatest anime’s I have seen. They are one of the great hits of BONES and Astral Ocean.
I really request for a 3rd series where Ao lives with Renton and Eureka as a family.
That would be interesting, for sure.
It would be interesting to see you make this argument and how you fend off Star Wars comparisons…
I loved them both, they were just amazing. I’ve attempted to watch eureka 7 multiple times but never got far until this past week where I watched eureka seven and AO. The one major thing I really wanted out of AO was more character info. Seriously who wouldn’t want to know about Holland and Talho’s baby, what happened with the three kids eureka adopted ( did Renton and eureka get back to them??????). It is really sad to know that they can’t have ao with them in their universe. It would be amazing if they made a new series to clear some more things up that would be VERY NICE TO KNOW.
I tip my proverbial hat to Bones. I have just finished watching all of eureka seven both ao and the origingal. After sampling and allowing the information to swirl around in my mind like a great wine that I would savor, I have come to the conclusion that eureka seven ao isn’t the true sequel. Everyone out there may believe what bones has stated when they claimed it was, but I laugh contently and give them a good wink and a nudge, believing otherwise.
To start my tirade, we have the Nirvash. Remember the last episode? If you do not, you should watch it again, now. The original Nirvash that Renton and Eureka flew became sentient and took most of the scub coral along with it to stop the limit of qestions and promised it would retrn if they achieven the next phase in evolution throgh their bond. Thus the Nirvash that is seen in Eureka Seven : Astral Ocean cannot be from that world. The only explanation that they have the original Nirvash still is that the Renton and Eureka seen in Eureka Seven: Astral Ocean is from yet another alternate universe, not from the same as the original. Though it could be said that Nirvash may have returned due to them having a child, but I doubt it. Nirvash had reached a new stage in evolution and if you remember when it wanted to change earlier it accepted the change and refused to go back. Thus this Nirvash, though the original isn’t from the “original” Eureka Seven universe.
Now that you see the sparks of my fire, the kindling is that with the original Eureka seven in mind a human-corrallion hybrid could have survived and flourished in a trapar dense environment. How is that possible when in Eureka Seven: Astral Ocean they claim that the cells would reject each other? My logic is very simple: Anemone. If you paid attention during the anime, she was a human that had been thoroghly experimented with corrallion dna and didn’t have ANY side effects. The only thing that can be claimed as a “side effect” is her headaches that were a result of the scub corrall responding to attacks just like Eureka. Many would argue that most other experiments died and she was just an “exception,” though I would smirk and simply say then instead of being a failed experiement that was pushed too far and done improperly, Ao would have been the perfect hybrid and like Anemone he would have been perfectly happy and healthy.
Now for the full blaze. With both the sparks and kinlding in mind. Know that in Eureka Seven: AO, there are two different universes that are interacting. In the universe that Renton and Eureka come from, it is highly possible that compared to the original universe they haven’t had Nirvash evolve. Furthermore since a major key event isn’t that same, it is even more likely that from the universe that Eureak and Renton come from has a different structure for their scub corral and corrallions compared to the orignal universe. One that doesn’t allow the crossbreeding of humans and corrallions. With this in mind the darkness can start to clear and doubt can be erased and maybe you can see the truth using my light.
Cascading sparks will fly from this fire. I encourage you to take some of it and make a torch and use this fire to reach my destination of understanding. Maybe in the Future Bones will make the actual sequel. Until that day run forward with this torch in hand lighting your way.
Thanks for the awesome, in depth comment. I agree!! There are inconsistencies with the universe of AO and the original. Therefore, it is completely logical to say it is an alternate universe, just like the movie.
Spread the word then, my friend.
Yeah honestly thanks, I don’t know why but for the last couple of days I wasn’t able to accept the ending of the series, but now I can.
AO felt like every few episodes they found out they were getting less episodes and would up the pacing. They also had too many characters and not enough setting. X’amd is a better spiritual successor to Eureka Seven, although “Truth” seems influenced by the worst parts of that anime.
if they ever redid it as a movie I’d hope they leave AO’s countrymen at home, drop the secrets (they can just keep the scubs cores a volatile substance) focus on Naru and keep the conflicts between countries as a background. send Eureka back to the future with Renton right after she disappears from the past, nix the retcon gun, and let the children of Generation Bleu go to the future so they can have an even bigger family. AO and Naru spread the scub over earth because humans can’t handle it.
Do people really not like Pocketfull of Rainbows? I thought it was great although missing the counterculture feel the series had.
As a fan I was greatly disappointed that they waited til the end to give Renton his appearance and didn’t pick up where it shouldve. But it wasn’t terrible but nothin like the original
Eureka Seven Ao should not be seen.